Nine Mile Pond: vultures and cat vomit

Day 1 in Everglades National Park.

We decided to camp in Flamingo which is a campground at the very southern tip of Florida in Everglades National Park. Any further South and you are swimming to get to Key West. As a veteran of many national parks, I can say that Everglades National Park is the red-headed step child of the park system if the visitor’s center is anything to go by. As an actual red-headed step child, I have street cred to make these statements.

Sadly, this crime against architecture survived Hurricane Wilma

On a totally unrelated side note, should you find yourself at Flamingo and in need of something to eat, do NOT dine at the Buttonwood Cafe in the visitor’s center unless you like terrible food served at a glacially-slow pace at astronomical prices. Instead, go to the marina shop and gorge on overpriced frozen candy bars.  Nothing is more delicious or nutritious than a frozen Snickers washed down with a diet Red Bull for breakfast. I do so hope to grace the cover of a cereal box someday, but I think I should lobby Red Bull to make room for my face on their can:

I think this has serious marketing potential if Red Bull is trying to market to 40 somethings who are constantly sleep-deprived in semi-dangerous situations.

We decided to kayak Nine Mile Pond, which is actually not nine miles long or a pond, but more like just shy of six miles of trail through a series of ponds, mangroves and open sawgrass prairies. The parking area is populated by vultures. These vultures want to destroy your car. Seriously. They are addicted to rubber and will strip your car in no time if you don’t take precautions. I tried to take a picture of a Japanese tourist taking a picture of a car being attacked by vultures, but Troy wouldn’t let me. Probably because he had deduced the vultures wanted to eat that car and not ours.  Even so, we diligently wrapped windshield wipers and kayak cradles in towels to keep the damned vultures at bay.

They are waiting for you to leave so they can strip your car. It's nature's version of Camden NJ.

Everyone (not native to Southern Florida) has an idea of what they think the Everglades looks like.  The terrain varies based on elevation, but at the farthest southern portions, you can expect a lot of wet sawgrass for miles and mangrove stands.

The start (and end) to Nine Mile Pond

We got into the water and headed across the first pond to the mangroves.  The trail is marked by numbered PVC pipes which is a good thing because pretty much everything looks exactly the same.  This area has crocs and alligators, although we saw neither this time.

Side by side in Nine Mile Pond

The middle portion of the trail is pretty much mangrove islands and sawgrass areas where the alligators and crocodiles like to lounge.  Alas, no reptiles to speak of.

Sawgrass on the left, mangroves to the right.

The portion of the trail furthest from the starting point is riddled with some type of reed that made the paddling exceedingly tedious. Each stroke would bring up rotted wet cattails to slap you in the face.  The water here is no more than one foot deep.

Rotting cattail things in the water

Close up, they greatly resemble cat vomit. It is noteworthy that I managed to get three of these things down the front of my shirt while paddling. Cat vomit in the cleavage.

Attractive, isn't it?

Troy realized after we made the turn back that we managed to miss poles 60-79. If it was more of this, I can’t say I’m too sorry. Paddling through stagnant cat vomit loses its charm rapidly when you are already expending energy fighting the wind and shallow water.

If you are in Everglades National Park, the Nine Mile Pond trail falls on the must-do list.  Overall, Troy and I managed to do it with a minimum of strife, no capsizing and it was a nice paddle.  Personal pain rating: 5 out of 10, for cat vomit in the cleavage and a blister on the right hand.

Haiku:

Sawgrass and mangroves

Wind sings across the water

Cat vomit in hair

 

 

 

Vegas or Bust: it was a bust

Troy booked my flight to Las Vegas. Because we have a zillion frequent flier miles on Delta courtesy of American Express, Troy booked Delta.  Delta sucks and I totally do not like the way they fly. To start with, it’s disconcerting to taxi down the runway and then to return to the gate being told that there is “a problem with the brakes”. Good to know.  This is one of those things you would hope they would have noticed before they started to take off. Hours later, we took off.  As we were descending into Las Vegas, we flew through the mother of all thunderstorms. The plane went up and down and sideways. I puked. Twice. The shame.  Fortunately for my fellow travelers, I am apparently good at puking into a paper bag in extreme turbulence as I did not puke on myself or them. You’re welcome Indian guy next to me.

On arrival, I headed for the Flamingo. I chose this hotel because I was either going to stay in top flight digs or old Vegas with mob connections. I opted for old Vegas. This was a mistake. The hotel does have the cool old neon Flamingo out front that’s been there since time immemorial.

The Flamingo at 6 am. No neon.

The original Ocean’s 11 was filmed here. I don’t think they’ve done much to it since then. I suspect that the carpet is exactly the same (hot pink and brown stripes) today as it was when the Rat Pack puked there back then. I think this property has taken a dive in standards since Bugsy met his great reward. On arrival, this hotel which has 3000+ rooms had one, yes one, valet guy.

The casino is smoke-filled and full of middle-aged women in packs. This is not your destination for anyone under 55.

Our room was a sad attempt at updated. Troy and I are still trying to figure out the vinyl headboards:

Troy is a slob. I made my bed.

Is the head board supposed to save you from a really bad headache in the event of head-banging sex? At 6′  x 6′, who needs that big of an area padded? This is a design element that needs more thought. Also, the 9 bare bulb fixture directly above the bed. I would ditch that.

Blinding you, 100 watts at a time

We ditched out of Las Vegas as fast as possible. We have arrived in Zion National Park and all is well in the Harrison world.  Big thunderstorms this afternoon and a downpour., though. Tomorrow, the Narrows.

I have no caption here.